Whether you live in an apartment building with dog potty rules or are trying to save your roses from your dog’s “water,” it’s nice to have a dog that will pee in one spot reliably.
Teaching your dog to pee in one spot isn’t necessarily very difficult, but it does take a level of dedication.
Since dog pee can cause brown spots on your lawn, discolor wood, and even make kids sick, teaching your dog to pee in one spot is more than just a neat little trick for road trips!
Many dogs develop a generic “substrate preference” when they’re being potty trained. Basically, this means that they learn that certain surfaces are good to pee on, but not others.
If your dog learns that all grass is good to pee on (which is generally the mindset of most already potty-trained dogs), this can make potty spot training a bit tricky – but not impossible.
If you want to change the rules for your dog, you need to be able to supervise her and “pay” her when she gets it right. Let’s look at how to do that below!
Pick a Good Canine Potty Spot – And Be Consistent
You don’t like going pee in extra-gross Porta-Potties, do you?
Likewise, your dog probably already has a few corners of your lawn that she likes best.
Most dogs like having soft, absorbent material for potty time. Both male and female dogs often like doing their business in tallish grass, and male dogs are especially fond of vertical surfaces to mark on.
But just like people, not all dogs are the same. Before teaching your dog to pee in one spot, try to figure out what potty spots she likes already. Pay attention to her current potty habits so that you can pick a place that mimics that setup!
Once you’ve got a potty spot picked out, keep it clean.
Scoop the poop regularly (and dispose of the poo in a responsible fashion) and ensure that your dog feels good about going to her new potty spot. This might require occasionally spraying the area down with water as well!
The Four Laws of Teaching a Potty Spot
There are four main rules for teaching a dog to pee in one spot that you’ll have to follow:
1. No More Unsupervised Potty Breaks. The first – and most important – rule of teaching your dog to pee in one spot is that you’ve got to supervise. You can’t just let your dog out into the backyard without management!
2. Go On-Leash to the Potty Spot. For each pottying occasion, you’ll need to take your dog on-leash to the designated potty spot. This will allow you to lead your dog to the correct area. If your dog is running around free, you can’t control where she ultimately relieves herself.
3. No Freedom Until You’re Empty. Hang out in the “potty area” until your dog pees or poos. You can reward your dog for peeing with freedom (and a treat, see #4).
Many dogs don’t automatically pee right away when you let them outside unless it’s been a long time! Your best strategy is to simply go to the potty spot and wait.
Don’t prompt your dog, try to play with her, or talk to her at all. If she doesn’t go after a minute or two, go back inside and try again later.
If your dog isn’t potty trained yet, it’s best to return your dog to the crate between potty breaks. For already potty trained dogs, you can simply return back inside and wait a little while before going outside again.
4. Reward When She Pees. If your dog pees in the correct spot, give her a treat and reward her by letting her off-leash or setting out on your walk. It’s important to save the fun walk or playtime for after your dog pees in her spot.
For some dogs, this is all you have you do. They quickly learn that if they don’t pee where you take them, they can’t go for the rest of their walk, get a treat, or otherwise have much fun.
But it can be a pain to just stand there waiting for your dog to go pee. That’s where a potty command comes in handy.
Teaching Your Dog to Go Potty on Command
The easiest way to ensure that your dog pees in one spot is to teach her to pee on cue.
You can establish the cue by rewarding your dog with a treat right after she pees for a few days. While you do this, pay close attention to what she does right before she pees.
My own dog generally starts sniffing, then slows down and raises his tail just before he raises his leg. Your dog will have her own little routine!
Once you know your dog’s routine and your dog knows that you’ll pay her for her pee, you can start to say the cue right before your dog starts to pee. When I was teaching my dog, I started saying, “Go potty!” right as he lifted his tail (the last step before he lifts his leg).
As soon as he peed, he got a treat. We repeated that for a few weeks, and now I’m able to say “Go potty!” to encourage him to lift his leg and empty himself. This is a real lifesaver on long car rides and whenever I need my dog to pee and poop quickly – for whatever reason!
Many people make the mistake of getting too excited during this process. They prance, squeal, plead, and generally try to convince their dog to pee.
Being exciting is generally a bad idea when potty training a dog, because you’re more likely to distract your dog into playtime than convince her to pee. Instead, try to be very boring and matter-of-fact (at least until after your dog pees).
Common Problems With Teaching a Dog to Pee in One Spot
Of course, things often sound easier than they actually are. You might get lucky with smooth sailing from here on out, but you might not.
Here are a few solutions to the most common hiccups in this training plan:
Marking. Male dogs generally dribble pee at strategic locations around their turf. Generally, this is considered to be more of a community newsletter than a possessive “This is Mine” declaration. Some trainers call it “pee-mail.” If marking around your yard is an issue, a belly band can help reduce marking.
You can certainly teach male dogs to pee on cue, but they often still attempt to mark with small amounts of urine elsewhere. Luckily, a few drops of urine is much less likely to cause discoloration than a full bladder!
Going Elsewhere. If your dog is consistently peeing in a non-designated potty spot, you need to go back to the drawing board. Don’t scold, hit, or spook your dog. Just clean it up and try again next time. Keep your dog on leash and reward her heavily when she goes pee in the right spot. Some owners have had success with poop training sprays to help get your dog to go in the correct spot, but for the most part, these sprays aren’t very effective.
Not Peeing at All. Some dogs don’t seem comfortable peeing on a leash or with an audience. Or maybe your dog just doesn’t have to go right now (or doesn’t like your spot). But you’re late for work already! Rather than getting frustrated, simply walk your dog around a bit in the designated area. Ignore her other than trying to keep her moving a bit. If your dog’s leash is the issue, you might need to get a long leash and deal with that problem first.
A Final Few Solutions to Keep Your Lawn Clean
If you don’t want your dog peeing all over your lawn, it might be easiest to just walk your dog to empty her bladder.
Sidewalk medians, local parks, and even deserted lots are all great dog potty places. This is especially helpful for dogs that don’t like to pee right away on their walk.
Since teaching your dog to pee in one spot is rarely foolproof (and still requires you to go outside with your dog on leash), you might as well get the exercise and take your dog around the block.
You can also use sprays to reduce brown spots in your lawn or chewable tablets to keep your dog’s pee from ruining your lawn in the first place.
Or, simply get used to fixing the dog urine spots your dog creates (although it sure can be a hassle).
Also, opting for hearty grass better suited for dog activity isn’t a bad idea either.
Unfortunately, neither of these solutions deals with the poo problem (or potential disease from your pup’s pee).
How did you teach your dog to pee in one spot? We’d love to hear how you keep your lawn brown-spot free!
June 17, 2022
I have trained my dog to go in a “spot” we live in the woods, and want him going “in the woods” and not in the yard. My problem is now, he won’t go without me, waiting by the door (outside) waiting for me to come. I’m now trying to get him in the woods without me. Any tips or suggestions?
June 17, 2022
Basically, you’ll want to do exactly what you did — get him to start going in the woods (make that the new “spot”). Then, gradually start moving back in toward the door yourself.
Best of luck!
January 26, 2021
So if I do an have done from day one with an 8 wk old puppy now about 14 mo old and yet she STILL looks at me an goes where she isn’t sappose to. I have seen her on some occassions go in her area but seldom an I have been doing this for almost a year. I am doing everything you suggested. Any other suggestions?
August 12, 2020
would you have any tips for trying to get more than one dog to use a potty area.
August 12, 2020
We don’t have any specific advice for that scenario, except that you may have the best results by letting the dogs use it one at a time, in sequence.
The odors may help trigger the urges in subsequent dogs.
Best of luck!
January 27, 2020
December 22, 2019
I love reading K9ofmine, it’s so informative. Good blog!
December 23, 2019
So glad you’re enjoying our content, Lynn.
Be sure to sign up for our mailing list, so you’ll get plenty of other info delivered straight to your inbox.
Thanks for reading!
March 27, 2019
Hello there, I agree with your training tips & rule of teaching dog.I also have a dog.your tips are more useful for dog.thank you for amazing blog.